I watched 'Naval Legends: Yamato' yesterday, and it included a phrase that was attributed to the crew of the ship: "The world's three most useless things are the Chinese Great Wall, Egyptian pyramids, and the Japanese Yamato." What is the original source for this?
I started searching and noted various repetitions of quotation:
- A NYT article from 1995 attributing it to "the crew";
- This website attributing it to "the Japanese Navy";
- Another web attribution to "the crew";
- This website quotes Vladimir Kofman attributing it to "military experts of the Imperial Japanese Navy".
Admittedly, "crew", "military experts of the Navy", and "the Navy" aren't mutually exclusive, but none of these refer to any original Japanese sources.
Meanwhile, looking into what the Yamato meant in Imperial Japan, it would be contradictory of the crew to suggest the ship that was the representation of their state was useless though this doesn't make it impossible. Similarly, it would be very harsh criticism coming from an IJN "military expert", especially given how much emphasis was given to psychological warfare and propaganda by the Kempeitai and Tokkeitai, so this sounds a bit unlikely but again it isn't impossible.
Thanks to @kimchilover, I found this mention as well which is more helpful but again without a direct source. However, this is a lot more plausible (which is that the source of this was a single Japanese officer and is related specifically to naval aviation vs battleships):
A famous story is told of a brawl in the Yamato's wardroom triggered by a casual remark made by a young officer—most likely a proponent of air power—to the effect that there were three totally useless big things in the world: namely, Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and the Battleship Yamato.
—'Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute - Volume 105 - Page 86'